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NORFOLK -- The hospital ship USNS Comfort will soon call Norfolk home.

The Navy announced Tuesday that the ship will leave its commercial berth at Baltimore in early to mid 2013, once its layberth contract expires.

The move to a pier on Naval Station Norfolk is expected to save $1.7 million the first year and $2.1 million in the years after.

The Navy will spend money to make a pier 'Comfort' ready. 'Based on an actual cost for the Pier 1 renovations at NS Norfolk of $3.4 million, which began in Sept. 11 under the recently awarded contract, the costs to relocate the USNS Comfort layberth could be recouped within two years of the transfer,' LCDR Mike Kafka told WVEC.com.

The savings, along with better access to military facilities for the ship's 59 permanent military members and a reduction in transit time to typical mission areas were cited as reasons for the change.

Norfolk was the preferred government layberth compared to Naval Station Newport, NS Mayport, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown - Cheatham Annex, and NWS Charleston, LCDR Kafka added.

USNS Comfort, part of Military Sealift Command, provides medical care for deployed forces and it serves as a full-service hospital for humanitarian efforts around the world.

When operating at full capacity, COMFORT has a staff of 1,200 active duty medical and hospital support personnel and 60 civilian mariners who operate the ship.

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